Laurence Ardell Harker, M.D.

December 10, 1932 ~ October 30, 2020

Laurence Ardell Harker, M.D., died Friday, October 30, 2020 of severe pneumonia during his recovery from COVID infection. Right up until the end, he was buoyant, energetic, and active—a well-loved man by all who knew him.

Born the third of six children in 1932, Laurence grew up in Raymond, Alberta, Canada. He quickly distinguished himself as a talented tenor vocalist and brilliant student, winning a scholarship to the University of Alberta to study medicine. After two years at the university, he gave up his scholarship to answer a mission call to Switzerland, despite his mother’s reservations and the university’s unwillingness to hold his scholarship for him. His mission changed his life, confirming his lifelong commitment to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and awakening a passion for European painting, opera, and culture. His love for God, for the Church, for truth, and for the arts never wavered throughout his life.

When first at the University of Alberta, Laurence met Donna June Parker; she was the choir director for a university chorale group, of which Laurence was a member. While he was on his mission, Donna was baptized, and when he returned, they married in 1958. They built a life of faith, joy, and laughter, soon to be joined by four children: David Lawrence, Peter Burton, Colleen Patricia, and Jaime Lynn.

After returning from his three-year mission, he studied relentlessly to regain admission to the University of Alberta Medical School, and was both readmitted and given another scholarship. Laurence completed medical school, and after an internship in Cardston, Alberta, they moved to Montreal, Quebec for three years of internal medicine residency at McGill. They then moved to Seattle, Washington from Montreal, so Laurence could complete a hematology fellowship at the University of Washington. Because of career and research opportunities, he stayed at the University of Washington for the next 18 years. Laurence and Donna, and their children, became American citizens in 1976. Laurence was a proud American for the rest of his life, and he instilled in his children a love of the United States and a devout commitment to education, faith, and service. He proudly cast his mail-in ballot ten days before his death.

Laurence was a small-town scholarship student from the Alberta prairie who became a world-renowned research hematologist. He worked as a hematologist and researcher at the University of Washington, Scripps Research Clinic and Foundation, and Emory University. He travelled throughout the world to speak and share his research. He also served the Church in multiple roles, including serving several times as bishop. When he retired, he and Donna were called to preside over the Germany Munich mission from 1999 to 2002. He mentored hundreds of young men and women placed in his care. They always said that this was one of the happiest times of their lives, and they continued to have relationships with former missionaries for decades.

Laurence and Donna retired to Salt Lake City in 2002, after their mission was completed, where they were able to live near their daughter, Colleen. Laurence threw himself into volunteer work and travel, with his customary energy and verve. He volunteered for the LDS Missionary Department four days a week until the end of 2019, driving down to the Church Office Building at 7am as a senior medical reviewer for missionary applicants. He also served as an expert medical consultant for missionaries throughout the world. He loved missionary work so much that he invited newly called missionaries in his home ward, and their entire families, to join him at his home for a steak dinner; he repeated this invitation upon their return. He lost Donna in 2010, and continued to visit children and grandchildren frequently. He truly was a world traveler, having visited Germany, Switzerland, Austria, China, Japan, Australia, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, Italy, France, Turkey, Scotland, and England, to name just a few. He also loved to visit the beaches of San Diego. He was a voracious reader and actively participated in his men’s book club, comprised of retired medical professionals. His insatiable desire for knowledge and his infectious enthusiasm for life never wavered.

Laurence is survived by his children, David (Gilbert, Arizona), Peter (Irvine, California), Colleen (Salt Lake City), and Jaime (Water Valley, Mississippi), by seven grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. His family is grateful for the loving service of his many home caregivers, especially his first and most loyal caregiver, Wendy Brooks. We are likewise grateful for the wonderful nurses and doctors who took care of him at the LDS Hospital.

Because of the pandemic, we will not have a conventional viewing or funeral. The family plans to meet to celebrate his life in the near future. We have created a Facebook page, titled “Laurence Harker Memorial and Tribute”; we hope that you will leave favorite memories and photographs of him on that page in tribute to him. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the LDS Church Missionary fund or a charity of your choice.

We feel grateful that Laurence Harker was our father. Though we will miss him terribly, we are grateful that he is now at peace and reunited with our mother.

To share memories, please visit the “Laurence Harker Memorial and Tribute” page on Facebook

A private family graveside will be held at a later date. A virtual service will take place Saturday, November 21, which everyone is invited to participate in.

The registration form for Laurence Harker's virtual memorial is here:

It will start at 11am Mountain time (Salt Lake City), 10 am Pacific (West coast).


Sharon and I were so fortunate to know Brother Harker. He was such a delightful man. He had the heart as big as the big outdoors. We were lucky to have been invited to his home a couple of times for his wonderful steak dinners! Every Christmas we were delighted to receive a huge poinsettia plant. This Christmas was not the same without his signature plant. We were thrilled to invite Laury to a concert presented by the Tabernacle Choir. We both love music and I cherish the times when we sang together in the 2nd Ward's choir. He had a wonderful voice and we sang tenor together. We miss him so very much! Sharon and Greg Gough

- Gregory Gough
Dear Harker Family and relatives, our thoughts and prayers are with you during this time. What a noble man Laurence Harker was and still is! We got to know him and his dear wife Donna when he served as a Mission President at the Germany Munich Mission in 1999. In 2004 and 2005 President Laurence Harker invited us to Salt Lake City and we were allowed to spend a few days in his house. We will never forget his generosity and hospitality! We will always remember his strong faith, his dedication to the work of the Lord and his steadfast testimony. His love for the missionaries and the members touched us deeply. It really was a great privilege for us to meet President Laurence Harker and his wife Donna. - „God be with you till we meet again!“ May you be comforted by the loving care of our Heavenly Father. - Wolfgang and Rosita Preiss Nuremberg Ward, Germany

- Wolfgang and Rosita Preiss
Laurie was and is a consistent example of Christ-like love and compassion in action. Though small in stature, he is a giant in the eyes of the Lord. Thank you, Laurie, for being you!

- Margaret Edwards
Harker family your parents were both great to my wife and 4 kids. When my boys were thinking about a mission he would have all of us over for costco steaks. The Divver family

- Jim Divver
Lawrence was a great friend, mentor, and co-minister with me for many years. He befriended me immediately when I moved into the ward in 2007. We became great friends and he and I worked on many projects together and visited many members of the ward together. He was always prompt and proactive in our duties and assignments. I was glad to have a partner who was enthusiastic about working together. On a personal note, even though his beloved Donna had passed away a year or two before my Sallie was gone, he was conscientious about staying close to me in the months and years that followed, checking on me frequently and even bringing in meals from time to time. The meals showed that he cared and gave him an excuse to visit. I have worked and known many good men in my life, but he is certainly at the top of my list of truly good men.

- Paul Gibson
So sorry Harker family. Will really miss Laury!

- Terry Beckstead
Brother Harker was an amazing man! What a stalwart member of our ward! He always had a smile on his face and was looking for ways he could serve others. I loved singing in the ward choir with him. He was a great tenor! We will miss him!

- Lisa Foster
good friend and a great leader and man he will be missed.

- Edwin Wilde
We moved into the ward in 2008. Brother Harker has been our home teacher several times and ministered to our family over the years. He brought me the band of brothers book that had a picture of the brothers who wanted to share their testimony with a picture of them. I thought that was really nice to read everybody’s testimony and information about their lives! Him and his wife had our whole family over for Sunday dinner. After his wife pasted away, he had us over a couple of more times including one occasion with other members in his backyard! Precious moments to remember! Great company and a wonderful meal! Brother Harker and Brother Gibson had been coming to our home the past 3-4 years then COVID 19 stopped that from happening . We were blessed to have such fine ministers! We were glad neither one of them were allergic to cats and dogs! We always had a cat or dog that wanted to sit by them and get their nice suits all hairy! Why not, they seemed like nice guys! They wanted to be ministered too also ! We received articles, letters, the Ensign, books, potted plants, the biggest and most beautiful poinsettias you have ever seen ! It was like they had somehow reached thru the veil and somehow pulled out these poinsettias! Brother Harker has been a wonderful shining example of somebody who was so caring and truly had a testimony of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints! As you entered his home, he had a spot for the Book Of Mormon so you knew what was important to him! I am also sure that his spirit will be with Brother Gibson as he continues to minister to us!

- Stewart and Jill Koeven
I know this outstanding man as Dr. Harker. I was a nurse in the missionary department during his volunteer work there. Without an exception, he was the most collaborative and listening physician I have ever worked with. He was always interested in my thoughts and suggestions repeatedly responding with thoughtful and helpful replies. I appreciated his kindness and desire to do the right thing for the potential missionaries we reviewed. His work demonstrated his desire to serve the Lord with all his soul. What a privilege to have had this experience. Your family has the very best to remember.

- Connie Bohman
Laurie was an astute clinician, a dedicated disciple of Christ, and a wonderful friend. He also cooked the best steaks I ever had. I will miss him as a friend and colleague, but feel assured he is celebrating with his devoted companion whom he sorely missed for a decade.

- George Snell
To our most dear Harker family. Our hearts truly go out to you all at this most sad time. We could hardly believe the news when it came to us through our son Lars. We have been in contact with your father on many occasions in recent years ;earning of many family activities and travel, and been often amazed at the energy he displayed. I always felt deeply honored to be called to serve with him in the 3rd Ward Bishopric so many years ago. We are sure that he will be greatly missed in the coming holiday season, and we send our condolences to you all. With our Love, Britt and Merwynj Haneberg family

- Merwyn Haneberg
Laurie Harker was an amazing man. He was totally dedicated to our Savior Jesus Christ, to his family, to the Church, and to his profession. He was the best combination of intellect, spirituality, leadership, and perceptiveness that I have ever known. With all of these qualities he remained a very humble man. Laurie, his wife Donna, and their family have blessed the Nelson family in countless ways. We love them and we will always be grateful and indebted to them.

- Jim Nelson
Our sincere condolences to all of the family on the loss of their father, Laurie Harker. We treasure the years your family lived in Seattle and the wonderful times we shared, filled with love, laughter, and respect. We are so glad you Harkers came to Seattle, and what a delightful surprise to find some common backgrounds, where Russ' family had once lived in Raymond, Alberta where there were a number of Harkers. Under separate cover we're sending some thoughts to all via Colleen. May you take comfort in the knowledge of our Father's plan for us, and the promise of a joyful reunion. With much love. Russ & Virginia

- Russ & Virginia Nickel